Megalobox 2: Nomad
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Megalobox 2: Nomad ?
The looming question that has been hanging over the entire story of Megalobox 2: Nomad so far is what could drive Joe to completely abandon the life he'd built in the wake of his Megalonia victory. Nanbu's death was certainly a major catalyst, of course, but I never felt like that could've been the whole thing, unless Joe really had been somehow responsible for it. Last week, we learned that it was nothing so fiendish; the old man just got sick, and eventually he died. Joe, refusing to accept a fight that he can't punch his way out of, turns to a comeback match with Yuri's protégé, Liu, under the pretense that the money will be enough to save Nanbu's life. It won't be, of course, even the kids know that, but Joe won't admit that. He can't. So, he fights, even after being told that Nanbu's health has taken a turn for the worse, and that this is the last chance he has to see his mentor before the end. And he loses.
It's easy enough to understand why Sachio and the others would be so hurt by Joe's childish insistence that a victory for his own ego will somehow be enough to save their fragile family, but it isn't until the very end of this episode that we learn what sends Joe away for five years: Sachio tells him to leave. In his own flash of petulant, childish anger, he tells Joe to leave, and to never come back. Joe's sin, more than abandoning Nanbu, more than taking on the fight with Liu, comes in this moment, when he listens to Sachio, and he goes.
Though I remain anxious to see whether Nomad will be able to fold the story and characters of Joe's time with Chief and the immigrants into the remainder of the season, I can't deny how powerful it is for Megalobox 2 to take seriously it's role as a sequel to the first series. That might sound like a daft bit of praise since there is no shortage of sequels in anime these days, but what I find so meaningful is the distinction between a “sequel” and merely a “second season”. There's nothing particularly special about a manga or light novel adaptation going dormant for a few years (or more), only to pick up the plot right where things left off with as little muss or fuss as possible.
This isn't anything like the “Next Generation” type of shows, either, where the same old plot points are rehashed with a remixed cast of younger characters that all get up to the same old business as their parents, or whatever. (No, I will never stop being mad about Yashahime. Why do you ask?) cite>Megalobox 2, on the other hand, is doing what the greatest sequels do, in my opinion. It isn't precious about sticking to genre formula or wringing fanservice out of cheap references and callbacks. It takes the risk of tossing its characters into challenging new stories and an unfamiliar world, breaking their relationships, and testing their resolve in ways that simply could never have occurred back when we first met them.
Santa, Oicho, Bonjiri and Sachio are the greatest examples of this: They've grown. They've changed. Santa's desire to tell the stories of the people he loved and admired has been twisted into something cynical and adult. Bonjiri is trying to feed people and bring some warmth into the world with his food, but he is too willing to let the bastards of the world walk all over him. Oicho has been hardened by her anger with Joe, and the leering eyes of the older men who are totally fine preying on children. As for Sachio, well…he's become Joe, except lacking in the innate talent for busting up faces with his fists.
Just as Joe was way back in the day, Sachio is too stubborn and proud to throw a fight, and he sure as hell isn't going to admit that he just isn't cut out for the Junk Dog life. He's also too stubborn to let it go when the douchebag Megalo boxers come around to step all over Bonjiri and paw on Oicho, so he breaks a bottle over the jackass' face, and gets Bonjiri's restaurant destroyed for his troubles. When he breaks that bottle, a little shard of glass flies up and nicks Oicho on the cheek. Five years ago, Joe took out his anger in the ring, and he tried to pretend that he was doing it for his family. Now, here is Sachio, a grown-up kid trying on his daddy's clothes, and reliving all of his mistakes in the process.
Joe's changed too, though, and that tangible sense of genuine growth is what is making Nomad such a delight to watch. The Joe of the first series made it clear that he'd rather risk everything than throw a match, that there was nothing worse than throwing away your pride like that. It wasn't until he met Chief that he learned how immature he was to think that the whole world had to bend to that whim. “There's nothing wrong about surviving.” That's what Chief taught Joe, and he brings that lesson with him when finds himself going back to Fujimaki and offering to take Sachio's place in the match.
It's “Gearless” Joe's great comeback, his chance to prove that he's not dead yet, once and for all…and he loses. On purpose. The reward for throwing the match is the deed to Bonjiri's restaurant. Oicho and Sachio make it clear that they have no interest in forgiving him. Even when Sachio admits that he drove Joe away all those years ago, Oicho makes a great point when she says that only a fool of a man would have listened to the angry child in that circumstance. Joe wanted to run. Sachio just gave him the excuse he needed to do it.
Joe knew that he couldn't undo half a decade of pain and anger with a single act of goodwill, though. He doesn't even ask them to take him back. In throwing the fight, Joe threw away his pride and let Sachio keep his own, which is the closest thing to a selfless act that Joe has probably ever done for these kids. In the first series, Nanbu, Sachio, the other kids – all of them were simply minor players in orbit around Joe's underdog story. Even when he opened the Nowhere Gym, you got the impression that it was all an extension of the story that began and ended with Joe's big win.
It isn't so simple anymore. The kids have grown up, and they're becoming the individual people they always were. The world is messier, grayer, and even less forgiving than it was before, and it no longer gives a damn whether Joe gets his redemption arc or not. The only thing Joe can do is decide whether it is enough simply to fight for the ones he loves, even if there's no guarantee that they'll love him back. This week's loss was the right thing, I think. A step in the right direction. That'll have to be good enough, for now.
• This week's title is the longest one yet: “Anunque Estes de consciente de tu impotencia, Dios te ofrecerá su images para que la pises”. Roughly translated, it means: “Even if you are aware of your impotence, God offers you his images for you to step on.”
• Am I crazy for thinking Santa's grown up character model seems a little…modern, compared to the throwback stylings of every other character in the show? It even seemed a bit like the intentional SD-smear on the visuals was less pronounced when he was on screen, though that could be a purely psychological effect on my part.
Megalobox 2: Nomad is currently streaming on Funimation.
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